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Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. Records may include names of other relatives who were witnesses or members of the congregation. The members of some churches were predominantly of one nationality or ethnic group.
The first churches established in New Jersey were the Dutch Reformed, Congregational (Puritan), Society of Friends (Quaker), and Lutheran. Church membership waned in the early 1700s, but revivals rekindled interest around 1740. By 1775 the largest denominations in New Jersey were the Presbyterian, Society of Friends, Dutch Reformed, Baptist, and Anglican (Episcopal) churches.
In the mid-1800s, the Methodist church was the largest, followed by the Presbyterian, Baptist, Reformed, Friends, and Episcopal churches. The Roman Catholic Church has been the predominant faith since the beginning of the twentieth century, followed by the Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal faiths.
Except for the Dutch Reformed and Lutheran churches in northern New Jersey, few of the earliest church records have survived. The Family History Library has some important collections of church records described below under the denominational headings.
For help in finding church records not at the Family History Library, see:
- New Jersey Historical Manuscripts: A Guide to Collections in the State (described in New Jersey Archives and Libraries). To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
Other helpful guides to church records include the following:
- Nelson, William. "Church Records in New Jersey," Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society, Vol. 2, No. 4 (March 1904):173-188; Vol. 2, No. 5 (June 1904):251-266. Digital version at Google Books. This is very helpful for determining all denominations that existed prior to 1800. FHL Collection. To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
- Guide to Vital Statistics Records in New Jersey. 2 vols. Newark, N.J.: New Jersey Historical Records Survey, 1941. Digital version at Ancestry ($). Volume 2 contains the names and addresses of churches located in New Jersey in 1940. FHL Collection. To locate a book copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
- Historical Records Survey. Directory of Churches in New Jersey. 21 Volumes. Newark, N.J.: Historical Records Survey, 1940-1941. There is a volume for each county; the Family History Library has volumes for Atlantic through Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties. FHL Collection.
The Family History Library has nine volumes of church record inventories for the Baha'i, Baptist, Seventh-Day Baptist, Congregational Christian, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, Salvation Army, and Unitarian churches. Each volume is cataloged separately but they have similar titles. Find these volumes in the Family History Library Catalog Author/Title Search under the title Inventory of the Church Archives of New Jersey.
Some denominations have their records in central repositories. You can write to the following addresses to learn where their records are located:
American Baptist Historical Society
3001 Mercer University Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30341
Telephone: (678) 547-6680
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early church records, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for New Jersey Wards and Branches can be found on film and are located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers, for each ward, can be locate through the Family History Library Catalog . Or by refering to Jaussi, Laureen R., and Gloria D. Chaston. Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers. 2 vols. Provo, Utah: Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; fiche 6031507). These volumes contain the film numbers for many (but not all) membership and temple record films.
Commission on History, Reformed Church in America
New Brunswick Theological Seminary
Gardner A. Sage Library
21 Seminary Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Telephone: (732) 247-5341
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many of the Dutch Reformed church records from the above listed archive. The records are described in:
- Gasero, Russell L., ed. Guide to Local Church Records in the Archives of the Reformed Church in America and to Genealogical Resources in the Gardner Sage Library, New Brunswick Theological Seminary. New Brunswick, N.J.: Historical Society of the Reformed Church in America, 1979. Digital version at Reformed Church in America; FHL Collection (does not circulate to Family History Centers). To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
The Holland Society of New York Library
20 West 44th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 758-1675
Year Book of The Holland Society of New York, 1912. New York, New York: The Society, 1912, available in the FHL Collection lists the transcripts of New Jersey Dutch Reformed and Lutheran records at the Holland Society Library. It also lists those that were published as of 1912. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many of these transcripts. To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
Diocesan House of the Episcopal Church
808 W. State Street
Trenton, NJ 08618-5326
Telephone: (609) 394-5281
Most synagogue records have not been centralized, so you must write to the local congregation. Addresses are listed in:
- Lightman, Sidney, ed. The Jewish Travel Guide 1990. London, England Jewish Chronicle Publications, 1990. To locate a copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
- Synagogue and cemetery records for some congregations in Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties are at:
Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey
1050 George St, Box 1-L
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Telephone: (732) 249-4894
United Methodist Church
Commission on Archives and History
Northern New Jersey Conference
Drew University Library
36 Madison Avenue
P.O. Box 127
Madison, NJ 07940
Telephone: (201) 822-2787
United Methodist Archives Center
Commission on Archives and History
Southern New Jersey Conference
The Meckler Library
112 W. Delaware Avenue
Pennington, NJ 08534
Phone: (609) 737-1838
Presbyterian Historical Society and Department of History
United Presbyterian Church in the USA
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Telephone: (215) 627-1852
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most of the records from the above listed archive.
Diocese of Camden
631 Market Street
Camden, NJ 08102
Phone: (856) 756-7900.
Diocese of Metuchen
P.O. Box 191
Metuchen, NJ 08840-0191
Phone: (732) 562-1990
146 Metlars Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Archdiocese of Newark
171 Clifton Avenue
Newark, NJ 07104-0500
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson
777 Valley Road
New Jersey 07013
Phone: (973) 777-8818
Diocese of Trenton
701 Lawrenceville Road
Trenton, NJ 08648
Phone: (609) 406-7400
The marriages of some New Jersey Catholics from 1758 to 1800 were published in:
- American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia Records. Volumes 1-4, 8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: American Catholic Historical Society, 1886-1889, 1893. (Not at the Family History Library.) To locate a book copy nearest you, use WorldCat.
Additional records for this time period are in:
- Dirnberger, Janet Drumm. New Jersey Catholic Baptismal Records from 1759-1781. Seabrook, Texas: Brambles, 1981. This book is available in the FHL Collection. However, it does not circulate to Family History Centers.
Most Catholic records have not been gathered into central repositories. You must determine the town where your ancestors lived and the parish they most likely attended and then write to that parish. Addresses of parishes and diocesan chancery offices are listed in:
- The Official Catholic Directory. Chicago, Illinois: Hoffman Bros., annual. A copy is located in the FHL Collection.To locate a copy nearest your location check at WorldCat.
When a parish closes, the records are sent to the diocesan archives or a nearby parish. If the diocese does not have an archive, the chancellor usually knows where the records are currently located.
- Flynn, Joseph Michael. The Catholic Church in New Jersey. Morristown, N.J.: n.p., 1904 is located in the FHL Collection and has short histories of individual parishes. Digital versions: Ancestry ($); Internet Archive. To locate a copy of the book nearest you, use WorldCat. For more information about records, write to:
Seton Hall University
South Orange Avenue
South Orange, NJ 07079
Phone: (201) 762-7052
The archives has records for the Archdiocese of Newark, which includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties. All sacramental registers, 1832 through 1914, and cemetery records in the archdiocese have been microfilmed. They are available at the Family History Library and at the university archives. A small fee is charged for mail inquiries, and records can be searched by appointment. Christenings through 1885 and marriages through 1895 for most of these parishes are indexed in the International Genealogical Index.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
The Friends Historical Library
Swarthmore, PA 19801
Telephone: (610) 328-8496
Fax: (610) 328-7329
This library collects microfilm copies of all records of New Jersey meetings.
The Quaker Collection
Haverford College Library
Haverford, PA 19041
Telephone: (610) 896-1161
Fax: (610) 896-1102
This library collects West Jersey Orthodox records.
Haviland Records Room
15 Rutherford Place
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 673-6866
This library collects records of East Jersey meetings that have been part of the New York Yearly Meeting.
The records formerly at the Friends Records Department in Philadelphia are now at Haverford College. These records are on microfilm at the Family History Library, as are most of the records from the Haviland Records Room. There is a large collection of the records at Swarthmore College.
The Family History Library also has microfilm copies of the John Pickens Dornan and Gilbert Cope collections and abstracts from most New Jersey monthly meetings, compiled by William Wade Hinshaw, John Cox, and John P. Dornan.
- Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. 6 Vols. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Edwards Brothers, 1936-1950. Volume II covers New Jersey Monthly Meetings. FHL Collection; digital version at Ancestry ($). To locate copies nearest you, use WorldCat.
For a history of New Jersey Quakers, see:
- Bowden, James. The History of the Society of Friends in America. 2 vols. London: W. & F.G. Cash, 1850-1854. Digital version of Vol. 1 at Google Books; FHL Collection 973 F2bj v. 1 [Volume 1 includes New Jersey.]
- ↑ Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972). FHL Book 973 K2ah.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Map of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States of America, Office of Catholic Schools Diocese of Columbus, accessed 3 Nov 2010.